Retraining as a teacher in your 50s 

We take a look at how some people are choosing to retrain in their 50s and how, for some, teaching is a great choice.

Older woman reading at a desk


There are more people choosing to retrain in their 50s than ever before. Research from the London School of Business and Finance found that among working adults aged 45 to 54, around half are seeking new challenges and opportunities.

This is partly driven by ever-increasing retirement ages, but also the fact that people in their 50s are generally healthier than ever and have an appetite for new opportunities and challenges.

Retraining is a great way to inject new life into your career and in 2015 the Education Secretary put out a call to the over 50s to pursue teacher training. This was a important step in recognising what the over 50s have to offer schools and their students.

Here we look at what it means to retrain as a teacher over 50.

Why the over 50s make ideal teachers

People in their 50s make excellent teachers for many reasons. The teaching profession greatly values ‘real world’ experience as it benefits both students and teaching colleagues. It gives you a useful sense of perspective and insight..

Many of us also have more time and ‘head space’ to devote to teaching in our 50s. Our children are likely to be older and more self-sufficient, or have left home entirely.

That gives us valuable time to devote to lesson preparation and marking. Lots of people start seeking new interests and
opportunities at this age, so it’s a great time to take on a new challenge.

What teaching offers the over 50s

Teaching is an enormously rewarding career with plenty of variety on offer. Teaching in a primary school clearly presents different experiences and challenges from secondary school or college, yet most find the job very fulfilling.

An important element in this is the clear purpose behind your role and the impact you can have working with the young.

Older teachers say that their career makes them feel more connected with the younger generation and that the challenges of teaching bring them new inspiration and energy. The long summer break is well appreciated too!

How to retrain as a teacher over 50

The UK government is actively encouraging older people to retrain as teachers, and the Teaching website provides useful information and support.

Generally you will need to have a degree or equivalent to enrol on a teacher training course. The programme is usually a year long and involves 120 days of practical classroom experience in two or more schools.

In general, it’s advisable to do as much volunteering in schools as possible to help you decide on the age and subject you wish to teach. There are five ‘key stages’ in school, taking children from nursery and school reception through to GCSEs and A-level.

You then complete two ‘induction’ years where you gain support from a tutor or mentor, a reduced teaching timetable and full programme of learning.

Will teaching over 50 suit me?

Teaching isn’t for everyone, yet it suits a wide range of people. The essential characteristics in a good teacher are the ability to communicate well and engage your students, and a passion for the subject you’re teaching.

A level of resilience is important too, as you will always have good days and bad, and the demands of the curriculum and education standards change frequently.

It’s a career that’s unlike any other, and could be the most rewarding job of your life.

Comments [9]

  • Paul Morris says:

    My experience does not bear out the views expressed in the article. I was ‘only’ 45 when starting my PGCE in a group that consisted entirely of mature career changers. We were assured that many would find posts in our placement schools while the rest would be ‘snapped up’ by other schools eager to take advantage of our varied experiences. In reality, only one managed to find a permanent post before the end of the course, two more managed to get contracts from the following January. By the end of the first year of teaching, the majority had already dropped out having failed to even start their NQT induction. I worked for a year on supply then had two one year contracts. I gave up after that. In interview after interview I was told that a man in his 40s was ‘just too old to relate to our kids’ or, for those with more awareness of discrimination law, ‘I didn’t fit the team profile’ where the department was led by a young lady in her mid-twenties and staffed entirely by teachers of a similar age and gender. I was told frankly by a headteacher friend (whom I knew before becoming a teacher myself) that SLT were nervous of employing staff from outside the education sphere, especially where they had management experience, as they were too prone to identify the deficiencies in school management.

    • Mark says:

      Thanks for the insight, I’m one year off completing my degree and wanted the honest opinion you have posted as a guide.

    • JW says:

      This is really dispiriting. I am a 52 yo foodservice refugee with negative savings and a strong need for a steady income. I thought teaching might be it. Now I am not so sure. Appreciate you flagging this.

  • Anupa Rani says:

    Can I apply for a teaching job in UK? I am 56 years old

  • Mike Chittenden says:

    ‘Induction’ period now 2 years, not one year as stated in the article.

  • Chi Lam FUNG says:

    I was working as a Physics teacher in Hong Kong for 20 years before. I have immigrated to the UK in 2018 and earning money with passive income for my whole family. I am still interested to be a teacher here and try to transfer my hk pgde becoming qts. Please give me some advice, thanks.

  • Peter Wordley says:

    I’m in the process of leaving a Global Pharmaceutical Company after 32 years aged 51. I’m interested in encouraging children of any age in STEM Subjects. I don’t have children but I have a neice, great neice and nephew. I’m inspired by Rosalind Franklin and Marie Curie. Without them the DNA structure could have taken years longer to discover. I have a particular interested in encouraging girls to be inspired too. Learning through practical learning. I remember my woodworking lessons building bridges and then putting weights on them to see how much weight it can take.

    I don’t have specific subject qualifications but I think my work experience and wishing to see others succeed make up for that.

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